(Duncan Jones, 2011, USA)
One of the foremost accolades that rained down upon Duncan (son of David Bowie) Jones’s previous film, Moon, back in 2009, was that it boasted originality in spades, a science fiction film that dared to be a little different, shrugging off the clichés of the genre that had been imitated so numerously elsewhere. It is this refreshing originality that Jones brings to his latest cinematic outing Source Code, a dynamic, headstrong high concept thriller that boasts imagination and narrative inventiveness, a triumph of ideas over cheap over-budgeted thrills.
Source Code sees Jake Gyllenhaal play Colter Stevens, an Afghanistan war pilot who suddenly awakens inside another man’s body on board a doomed passenger train headed for Chicago, which is due to explode at any moment. Upon said blast, which kills every passenger, Colter reawakens as his usual self, though cocooned within a secluded container, presided over by military woman Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga), who appears on a small monitor, informing him that he has been living within the ‘Source Code’, a pioneering programme that allows specified candidates to take over the body of a victim within the last eight minutes of their lives. Somewhat reluctantly, Colter must repeatedly return to the scene of the crime, find the bomb on the train and stop the terrorist who planted it there; all the while keeping up the pretence of his human vessel and uncovering the details of an imminent second attack on Chicago, putting thousands more lives in danger.
Trading in the sparse, slow burning atmosphere that made Moon so terrific, Jones imbues Source Code with a nonstop, frantic energy that never lets up until its blistering, game changing conclusion, an ending that perfectly complements the twists and turns sported by the narrative structure preceding it. Indeed, Source Code is a very well made, imaginatively put together film that engages the mind whilst entertaining the senses, and even if the plausibility of its central, Groundhog Day-esque concept lessens once you fully comprehend it, the film is engrossing enough to keep you on tenterhooks from start to finish. Furthermore, the films sensitivity comes in the form of the subtle romantic subplot between Gyllenhaal (who has never been more compelling in the leading man role) and Michelle Monaghan, giving the film its heartfelt centre amidst the predominantly stern tone.
Despite its bigger budget invoking more blockbuster expectations and sensibilities, and some glaring product placements, Source Code is another expertly crafted foray into high concept intelligence, much like last year’s Inception, and proves that even a production shift to Hollywood does nothing to dim the light of Jones’s already remarkable career in filmmaking.
- Groundhog Day, 1993. [Film] Directed by Harold Ramis, USA: Columbia Pictures Corporation.
- Moon, 2009. [Film] Directed by Duncan Jones, UK: Liberty Films UK.
- Source Code, 2011. [Film] Directed by Duncan Jones, USA: Summit Entertainment.